Christia Mercer studied art history in New York and Rome, before going to graduate school in philosophy (PhD in Philosophy, Princeton University, 1989). She received a Fulbright Scholarship (1984-85) and Humboldt Fellowship (1993-94) to Germany and a NEH Fellowship (2002). In the past year, she has been awarded a Senior Fellowship, Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany (2013); and Guggenheim Fellowship (2012-13). Along with Michael J. Allen and Seamus Heaney, she was a Resident Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Spring, 2013).
Mercer joined the Columbia Philosophy Department in 1991, and became Gustave M. Berne Professor in 2003. She gave the Ernst Cassirer Lectures at the University of Hamburg in 2005, was visiting professor at Oslo, Norway, Spring (1998), Centre Alexandre Koyré, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (2003, 2005, 2007), and the Seminar für Geistesgeschichte und Philosophie der Renaissance, University of Munich, Germany (2003). She won the 2008 Columbia College Great Teacher Award and the 2012 Mark van Doren Award, which annually recognizes a professor for her “commitment to undergraduate instruction, as well as for humanity, devotion to truth and inspiring leadership.”
Professor Mercer has begun to devote herself more and more to contextualizing the history of philosophy. To that end, she designed a book series, Oxford Philosophical Concepts, that enlists prominent international scholars to think creatively about the "lives" of concepts in the history of philosophy. As of 2013, there are 30 volumes in various stages of production, with 10 soon to be published. These include Memory, Evil, Eternity, Space, Consciousness, Health, Sympathy, Efficient Causation, and Moral Motivation. Each edited volume traces the concept’s original inception through its transformations to its modern use. One of the most innovative features of OPC is its recognition of the rich relation that art, architecture, music, literature, science, religion, and other cultural practices have with philosophy. In order to broaden the historical and disciplinary scope of its concept, each volume includes Reflections. Written by specialists from diverse fields, these short essays explore how artists, artisans, scientists, composers, and innovators have engaged the concept.
Besides the OPC series, Mercer’s major research projects are: (1) Anne Conway’s Radical Rationalism, a book on the philosophy of the seventeenth-century English philosopher, Anne Conway, whose metaphysical system has not been thoroughly studied; (2) a book-length study of methodologies in the seventeenth century, presently entitled Non-Rationalist Rationalism: A Reconsideration of Early Modern Methodology; and (3) Platonisms in Early Modern Thought, whose goal is to articulate the diversity of Platonisms that form the background to early modern thought and identify the range of Platonist assumptions underling early modern philosophy, theology, and art.